SPOKANE, Wash. - More than 70 local volunteers with Keller Williams Realty chose to spend all day making over retired U.S. Army Sergeant Willard “Seth” Van Eyke’s yard on the South Hill. Not just because it needed a lot of work, but because Van Eyke can no longer do the work himself.
“I just can’t do it the way I used to,” Van Eyke said. “I can work probably about 10 minutes at a time and then, I’m done. My body hurts too much and I start losing feelign in my legs and arms.”
Seven years ago, Van Eyke survived up to seven Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosions as a U.S. Army Sergeant serving in Iraq. Today, his army boots rest in his garden as a reminder of what happened.
“Everybody has these lofty ideals about doing it for country and those are there for you, but the reality of it is, you do it for your men and you do it for the guy who’s next to you,” Van Eyke said. “And the mission becomes coming home.”
Van Eyke lost more than his commrades that day. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and he lost much of his physical ability. He can’t do the simplist chores he used to: like mowing the lawn or unloading groceries.
The boots are equally as emotional for Van Eyke’s wife, Meghan Jones. Even though she didn’t know Van Eyke’s friend he lost in one of the explosions.
“The thought that it could’ve been him,” Jones said. “It wasn’t.”
As part of the yard rennovation, volunteers built Van Eyke a new deck and raised flower beds. Van Eyke said the improvements are giving him back some pride
“Being able to walk out my front door and say, ‘Okay, I can just maintain that area,’ instead of, ‘I have to start from scratch,’ that’s the biggest thing,” he said.
“We are both completely overwhelmed at just the generosity of strangers,” Jones said
Van Eyke received a Purple Heart before he was medically retired in 2006. He recently went back to school and received his associate’s degree in visual communication and graduated at the top of his class.
He is now enjoying spending more time in his yard.